It's that time of year. You've nailed down your routine and life starts to fall into that wintertime rut. For parents and children alike this often means boredom, restlessness and mood fluctuations. To help keep you and your children from going stir-crazy, we've compiled a list of ten fun and engaging activities. Just because its still and quiet outside, doesn't mean that's how it has to be inside!
- Create a “vacation” at home. Pitch a campsite! Bust out your tent and prop it up in the living room. You can roast s’mores in the oven and create a fire out of red, yellow, and orange construction paper. Take turns telling ghost stories using the flashlight as a prop. If your children are old enough, pull out the sleeping bags and let them spend the night in the living room.
On a particularly chilly day, dig out the swimsuits and have a beach party in the bathroom. Grab sand buckets, shovels, sunglasses, umbrellas, and any other fun water toys. You can even lounge by the poolside with a towel and a book while supervising the beach-day fun. If you’re feeling especially generous whip out the bubble bath or shaving cream. Your kids will love making shaving-cream castles.
- Get out locally. Visit one of Chicago’s museums. With so many free entry days for a variety of museums, it’s easy to plan a very inexpensive outing. There are also many awarded children’s museums in the Chicagoland area. For a more active day, take a trip to your local ice rink. Whether you’re first-timers or seasoned vets, you’re sure to get tired out. Follow it up with a night of movies and glasses of hot chocolate. If you’re looking for a shorter activity, it’s always a good idea try a new kid-friendly restaurant or coffee shop; especially that new place you’ve had your eye on.
- Create a taste adventure. Investigate kid-friendly recipes. After you’ve created a list of a couple different options, invite your kids to help you decide and then help cook. Make your grocery shopping list together and let them take charge of the shopping. If they can’t agree, let one take charge of dinner and one of dessert. If you and your kids are really adventurous, try experimenting with different spices and cuisines.
Alternatively, instead of cooking try a taste test! Sample some kid-friendly foods, like different juices, different mac ‘n’ cheese brands, or different kinds of apples.
- Have a dance party. It’s always great to let loose and let your goofy side show. Push aside the furniture and blast your family’s favorite songs. Add in costumes for even more fun. Freeze dance and costume fashion shows are always good options as well.
- Find fun in ordinary household items. Try wrapping each other in toilet paper and busting out of it on a special word. These games can help spend excess energy. Push furniture aside and see if you can keep a feather in the air by standing under it and blowing it skyward. Use string to make a line on the floor and make it a competition. If it lands on your side of the floor your opponent gets the point. This will also work with balloons or beach balls. For a different indoor sport, find some straws and have a game of hockey by blowing a ping pong ball across the floor. For more information about how to connect with your child using active playtime, visit www.theraplay.org/index.php/for-parents.
- Take advantage of the snow. If Chicago gets more snow this season, get outside and build a snowman or engage in a good-old snowball fight. If your kids are a creative bunch, challenge them to a snow fort making competition. Make sure you have a good warm-up plan. PJs and hot chocolate always do the trick.
- Create an art gallery. Challenge your kids to create their own art gallery. Encourage them to experiment with different mediums. Then display them throughout the living room and invite friends and family to view the exhibit.
- Play sidewalk games on the hardwood. Tape construction paper squares on the floor and use a cotton ball or other small object to play hopscotch. Or roll out butcher paper on the kitchen floor and decorate it with sidewalk chalk. Hangman or tic-tac-toe are always fan favorites, but for a little more creativity, challenge your child to trace you and draw on the craziest outfit she can.
- Date night with your partner. Parents need to break out of the cabin too! Hire a babysitter and get out of the house with your significant other. See a movie, grab dinner, or try something new. Explore sites like www.dabble.co for ideas.
- Plan a real vacation for warmer days ahead. Head to the internet to look at pictures and plan a weekend or weeklong vacation. Looking ahead to something fun can make the dreariness of the winter less daunting. If your child is old enough, take their ideas into account. Spend a little time with your kids writing down ideas and researching fun places to go. Once the vacation arrives, they will feel like they played an important role in planning it and be that much more engaged.